FORGIVE me for not jumping for joy just because the Ombudsman has indicted Noynoy Aquino in connection with the misuse of Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds. I think I know a scam when I see one.
Usurpation of legislative authority is the formal charge for which Aquino was indicted. And the charge is laughably inappropriate, in my view, and totally disproportionate to the crime that Aquino committed.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who caused the filing of the latest charges, is merely up to her old tricks. This is the very same charge that Morales filed against Aquino in connection with the Mamasapano massacre, the only difference being that she found probable cause against Aquino for usurping the power of the chief of the Philippine National Police, Alan Purisima, instead of the authority of Congress.
In both cases, Aquino and his co-accused will probably never see the inside of a jail cell, even if they are found guilty. The maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment for usurpation not only assures that Aquino and the rest will be given probation, it also ensures that they will be able to post some ridiculously small amount that will be set as their bail.
Because Noynoy and his gang have been charged with mere usurpation, there is also no way to penalize them financially. Unlike in a graft and corruption or a plunder case, Aquino will not be asked to pay back or return any funds that may have been lost because of the crime he supposedly committed.
This is simply Morales making sure that the president who appointed her is safe from real prosecution and actual incarceration. This is Morales performing her real function, only a month before she steps down from office in July.
What the Ombudsman is attempting to do is to inoculate Aquino and his top officials against more serious charges that could land him in jail. And after slapping Noynoy on one wrist for allowing the killing of 44 Special Action Force commandos, Morales is now slapping him on the other wrist for dreaming up, with his financial genius budget secretary Florencio Abad, the multi-billion-peso DAP fund diversion scam.
The groups that filed the original complaint against Aquino before the Ombudsman in connection with the DAP scheme wanted him sued for malversation and graft, at the very least. And the Supreme Court itself had already ruled that DAP, which allowed Aquino and Abad to impound funds allocated in the national budget for all government agencies in the guise of “savings” in order to fund legislators’ projects, among other things, was illegal.
But Morales, who escaped retribution for her various anomalous actions as Ombudsman only because she was lucky to have become a relative by marriage of President Rodrigo Duterte, decided to stick to the program. The Mamasapano massacre and the DAP scandal were the two cases most likely to land Aquino in jail, after all, so whatever charges lodged in connection with them had to be downgraded to something ineffectual and risible – thus usurpation.
Like in the Mamasapano case, Morales’ game plan is simple: If Aquino and Abad are arraigned in the DAP case, they can no longer be charged for their involvement in the budgetary scam because of the double jeopardy rule.
This is why Solicitor General Jose Calida went to the Supreme Court last year to file a motion for certiorari, arguing that Morales could not indict Aquino based on the usurpation charge lodged by the Ombudsman. Calida argued that Morales did not base the usurpation charge on actual facts surrounding the massacre case, which he said constituted grave abuse of authority on the Ombudsman’s part.
The high court granted Calida’s motion, which was why the arraignment of Aquino on the usurpation charge in connection with the massacre never happened. Now, it looks like stopping the arraignment of Aquino and Abad in the DAP case filed by Morales is another job for Calida – or else Noynoy will only get the slap on the wrist that the Ombudsman believes he deserves.
Of course, the Yellow press and pundits are making it appear as if the filing of charges against Aquino in connection with DAP is such a big deal. Even the original complainants in the DAP case seem to have taken the position that usurpation is better than nothing, if it leads to the conviction of Noynoy.
But they are really part of the conspiracy to get Noynoy off the hook and out of jail. If Aquino cannot be charged with more serious stuff because of DAP, which involved the misuse of many billions in government funds, then what are the chances that he will do jail time for the other crimes that he committed while in office?
But why is it so important for Morales to slap small-time charges on Noynoy instead of the big-ticket ones like corruption and plunder? The answer to that is simple as well.
Both Noynoy and his appointed Ombudsman know that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo spent five years in a government hospital because of the gravity of the charges lodged against her. In the end, it did not matter that Arroyo was cleared of all the charges filed by Morales, Leila de Lima and all the other implementors of Aquino’s policy of political vendetta – what mattered was that she did the time, not if she committed the crime.
Now, I don’t know if Morales will find the time to charge Aquino with usurping the powers of his health secretary, Janette Garin, in connection with the Dengvaxia vaccination scandal. The Ombudsman, after all, can file any charges she wants against former and present government officials, motu propio, and she may want to ensure that Noynoy is saved from jail for the third time through her efforts.
But if I were Morales, I’d tell Noynoy that I’ve done enough for him already and call it a career. No use stressing and overly exerting yourself one month before retirement, after all, even if it is in the service of the president who appointed you.